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Make Planned Giving a Family Affair

Planned giving is an important aspect of a development plan for both the donor and the organization seeking the gift.  For the donor, it is a meaningful way to make a difference for an organization that the donor has passion, and for the organization, it means a substantial gift that can be used to support a program or can be used to enhance its ability to serve its constituency in a more effective manner.

When approaching a potential planned gift donor, you must include the spouse, partner or significant other as part of the conversation.  Most couples don’t make significant financial decisions without consulting each other, and that is the case with charitable giving.  The decision is a shared decision, and the organization and its mission must be important to both.  The Planned Giving Manager must treat both parties equally, and cultivate the relationship with the couple as a unit.  To ignore one spouse is a sure way to fail. When it comes to charitable giving, women hold a great deal of power, even if the husband is the main source of income.  Both spouses must have a say as to whether the gift should be in the form of a trust, an annuity, a bequest, or whatever option they and their financial advisor decide is best for their circumstances.  Whether the couple decides to leave a legacy to the organization, it will be up to both to make that decision.

Something that also needs to be considered when cultivating a donor relationship which will result in a major gift is the child or children of the donor.  Money that is being set aside from the donor’s estate is money that will not end up in the hands of the heirs.   Some parents don’t want their children to inherit the entire family fortune because they want their offspring to succeed on their own efforts.  They want their children to know the character building aspects of hard work and not having everything handed to them on a silver platter.  When cultivating the potential legacy gift, do your best to include the entire family.

It is very important that the child or children know of their parents’ plans.  If the news of a planned gift comes as a surprise, it is not unheard of that an heir or heirs to get a lawyer and fight for what they believe is their legacy.  A long drawn out legal fight can be very expensive, and even in the event that the courts decide that the organization will receive the donation, legal expenses can cause the donation to be diminished.  It could also happen that the heir’s lawyer is exceptional and persuades the judge or jury to invalidate the gift.  If the children are involved in the conversation from the start, and everything is in writing, the gift will not cause hard feelings.  Everyone will have their say and will be fully informed throughout the process.

Remember that planned giving is a decision that needs to be shared by all those involved.  It needs to be transparent and ethical.  The best way to make it happen is to make it a family decision, including both spouses and children.  To leave out any of the parties would be a big mistake that can haunt your organization in the end..